Professor Surya P. Subedi, OBE, KC, DCL & DPhil (Oxford), Barrister
- Position: Professor of International Law
- Areas of expertise: International law
- Email: S.P.Subedi@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 4616
- Location: 2.31 Liberty Building
Professor Surya P. Subedi, OBE, KC, DCL is Professor of International Law at the University of Leeds, an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College, University of Oxford, and a practising barrister in London. He has been a visiting faculty member on the international human rights law programme of Oxford since 2016 and has taught at five other universities in the UK, USA, and the Netherlands. He has published 12 books and more than 60 scholarly articles in all major areas of international law in leading international law journals throughout his academic career. His publications are focussed on promoting fairness in international relations, strengthening the rules-based international order, and advancing human rights.
He obtained a DPhil (PhD) in Law with a prize from the University of Oxford in 1993. He was awarded Oxford’s highest accolade – the degree of Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) – in 2019 by the University of Oxford and the degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) honoris causa by the University of Hull in 2020 in recognition of his contribution to international law and human rights. The judges of the award panel at Oxford described him as “a scholar of uncommon breadth of knowledge and depth of thinking in international law” when deciding to award him the DCL.
Professor Subedi was appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC) (Hon) in 2017. A press release of the British Government of January 2017 announcing his appointment as a QC stated that Professor Subedi had made “an exceptional contribution over a sustained period at the international level to develop international law and to advance human rights.”
Prior to this, Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had made him an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004 for his services to international law. Speaking at the OBE investiture on 19 October 2004 in London, the British Foreign Secretary stated that Professor Subedi had "made a highly distinguished contribution to our understanding of international law, and to its evolution" and his work in international law had "spanned almost every aspect of it – with a special focus on issues ... which make a real difference to people's lives".
Professor Subedi has advised governments in different countries on international legal matters and acted as a counsel in several cases before the international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). He has been appointed to the list of arbitrators under a post-Brexit comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU – Trade and Cooperation Agreement . He also was appointed in 2004 by the World Trade Organization to the Roster of Panellists of its Dispute Settlement System and was designated to serve on the panel of arbitrators of ICSID. He is a member of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). Professor Subedi was elected to the exclusive Nobel Peace Prize winning Institut de Droit International in 2011 and made a Membre Titulaire in 2015.
Professor Subedi has served in high-level positions in governments and national and international organisations with responsibility for policy formulation and advice. He was elected by the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 to serve as the UN’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia for six years.
During his tenure for the UN, he was able to bring about tangible change by breaking a protracted and violent political deadlock between the government and the opposition party, convincing them to work together towards electoral and judicial reform. In Nepal, he assisted the Prime Minister and other political leaders in resolving a 10-year Maoist conflict and in writing a new democratic constitution.
Professor Subedi has also served as an advisor on human rights to the British Foreign Secretary between 2010 and 2015. He was appointed Legal Procedural Advisor to the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held in Marseille, France, in 2021 and a member of the Task Force on Investment Policy of the World Economic Forum (known as the Davos Forum) in Switzerland in 2015.
He was nominated as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2022 in recognition of his contribution to human rights and was shortlisted and interviewed for this position by the UN.
His latest book is ‘The Workings of Human Rights, Law, and Justice: A Journey from Nepal to Nobel Nominee’ (Routledge, London/New York, 2022). Drawing on his lifetime personal experience of work in international law and human rights, this book offers insights into the powers bearing on international law and policymaking, the dynamics of human rights negotiations with governments, and the effects of their outcomes on the lives of their citizens. It provides glimpses of a personal journey and a life lived in law and the pursuit of justice and an insight into the workings of international law and international institutions through the eyes of someone who has navigated the system.
Another book by Professor Subedi entitled ‘Human Rights in Eastern Civilizations’ (Edward Elgar, 2021) examines the values of Eastern civilisations and their contribution to the development of the UN Human Rights agenda and demonstrates how cross-fertilisation of values between the Eastern and Western civilisations has taken place and how the notion of the universality of human rights has been enriched by the values of different civilisations.
The book entitled ‘The Effectiveness of the UN Human Rights System: Reform and the Judicialisation of Human Rights’ (published by Routledge, New York/London, 2017) creates a modern vision of the United Nations that could function better in a multipolar world to help secure a better mode of living for more people around the world.
His book ‘Unilateral Sanctions in International Law’ (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2021) explores whether there are any rules in international law applicable to unilateral sanctions and if so, what these rules are. In doing so, it examines the impact of unilateral sanctions on human rights and the environment.
Another scholarly book by Professor Subedi is entitled ‘International Investment Law: Reconciling Policy and Principle’, which is published by Hart Publishing, Oxford. It was first published in 2008 and is now in its 4th edition (2020). It includes a critical overview of the law of foreign investment and deals with the tension between the law of foreign investment and other competing principles of international law, including human rights and environmental protection. In doing so, it proposes ways of achieving a balance between these competing principles within a wider framework of public international law.
Professor Subedi is the editor of a Routledge series of books on ‘Human Rights and International Law’ and has edited 14 volumes that have been published in this series since 2014. They analyse a wide range of international human rights issues and offer policy recommendations that can make a difference to the real life of the people across the globe.
He also is the Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Asian Journal of International Law, which is published by Cambridge University Press.
He has received high-level state honours from the monarchs of the UK and Nepal for his services to international law. He was made an OBE in 2004 by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the UK; and was decorated with the Suprabal Gorkhadaxinbahu by His late Majesty King Birendra of Nepal in 1998. He was awarded another high-level state honour – the Prasiddha Prabal Janasewa Shree – by the President of Nepal on the occasion of the National Day of Nepal in 2022.
Two law prizes named after his name – one for the best attainment in Human Rights Law and another one for the best doctoral thesis (DPhil) of the year in Law – were established at the University of Oxford in 2020.
The Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation of the University of Hull also established a global essay prize on modern slavery or the protection of human dignity in his name in 2022. The prize is designed to raise awareness of modern slavery and the protection of human dignity anywhere in the world.
The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland also launched an annual ‘Surya P. Subedi Prize’ in 2022 to be awarded to a book or an article on Nepal published in English anywhere in the world. This Prize was offered by Dr James Busuttil to honour the work and distinguished career of his friend and colleague Professor Subedi.
In April 2021, the flagship journal of the Bar Council of England published a feature article on Professor Subedi as an inspiring legal personality entitled ‘The International Human Rights Jurist: Surya Subedi QC’.
His other honours include the Dasturzada Pavry Memorial Prize from the University of Oxford (for his DPhil thesis in 1993), an SPTL Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship from the British Society of Legal Scholars (for one of his books in 1997) and the Josephine Onoh Memorial Prize from the University of Hull (as best LLM student of the year in 1988). He also won a British Council Scholarship to study for an LLM in International Law at Hull and a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholarship for his DPhil studies at Oxford.
Professor Subedi has covered all major areas of public international law in his research and publications. His research interests range from international investment law and arbitration to WTO Law, land and maritime boundary disputes in international law, international human rights law, and international watercourses law.<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>
- LLB, MA (Tribhuvan University)
- LLM with Distinction (University of Hull)
- DCL & DPhil with a Prize (Oxford University)
- Barrister (Middle Temple)
- QC (Hon), 2017
- Member, London Court of International Arbitration
- Member, The Bar Council of England and Wales
- Member, The Honourable Society of Middle Temple
- Member, Institut de Droit International
- Chair, Editorial Board, Asian Journal of International Law (published by Cambridge University Press)
Professor Subedi currently teaches Global Governance through Law, Public International Law, World Trade Organisation Law, and International Investment Law.
Research groups and institutes
- Centre for Business Law and Practice